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Put away your goggles, matches, candles, water baths and eye drops. The answer is a sharp chef's knife. A sharp knife cuts through the onion cleanly, so none of its sulphuric, eye-watering liquid is expelled. Most of the sulphur is in the root end, so it also helps to stop chopping about a centimetre from the root.

A good chef's knife, one that holds its edge, is an investment that will last you a lifetime. I still have the excellent carbon-steel knife that is more than 100 years old that my grandmother used in her restaurant.

Used for chopping, dicing, mincing, slicing and even carving, a straight-edged chef's knife is one of the most efficient tools in your kitchen. But it must be sharp; a dull blade will bruise or mash the food, instead of giving you the clean cut you want.

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When buying a chef's knife, it's important to hold the one in which you are interested; essentially shake hands with it. Does it feel comfortable in your hand? Don't point your finger down the knife's spine. That unbalances it, and balance is everything in cutting. European brands are my preference.

When you find one that is comfortable (an eight- to 10-inch blade is your best bet), you'll need a steel to keep it honed.

Hold the steel horizontally, with your knife at a 45-degree angle. Run the blade down the length of the steel, going from shaft to point, and repeat about six times on each side.

Store your knife where it won't get banged around: Amagnetic rack or a knife block is your best bet.

Don't use a carborundum, or silicon-carbide stone, which is very coarse. Although it gives a good edge, it wears your knife down and you want to be able to bequeath it to your grandchildren. Use a steel or have your knives professionally sharpened. Check Google for people in your area.

Armed with a properly sharpened knife, you can say goodbye to tears.

Need some advice about kitchen life and entertaining quandaries? Send your questions to lwaverman@globeandmail.com.

Falafel can be the basis of a delicious vegetarian meal. Chef Matt DeMille shows how to make the tasty morsels at home.
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